Late January 2011, 2012 and 2014, I experienced the vulnerability of supporting my three adolescent children commence year 8 at Toowoomba high schools. These three moments symbolised the gradual relinquishment of my fatherly provision and protection, the call for me to trust other groups like the school community to form my children and my pride in my children and … reduced me to tears.
Superimpose a delayed start to the school year amidst another year of covid-19 and parental, child and school fragilities about school commencements must be going through the roof! One feels for the parents, children and school communities navigating the pandemic’s strictures.
Commencements and vulnerability saturate today’s Gospel. After fishing all night and now mending nets, Simon Peter and the disciples hear Jesus’ call to cast out the nets during the day: a poor time to fish. They also hear the call to commence a new vocational journey: To fish for people rather than fish. We know where that invitation leads.. to the cross and resurrection. The disciples’ immediate fragility in response to Jesus’ call is given voice by Simon Peter “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
With Jesus, alongside fragility there is also extravagant gift and blessing. Despite the poor time to fish, when the disciples in their vulnerability risked trusting Jesus and relinquished their normal fishing rituals ‘they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break …. and filled both boats so that they began to sink’. Despite my vulnerabilities at the school commencements of my children, I now enjoy extravagant gifts with my beautiful adult children. Such as the satisfaction of seeing my children enjoy life-giving relationships with partners and enjoying fulfilling vocations and the promise of grandchildren.
As we commence the school year, today’s Gospel raises questions for us that we would do well to ponder like…
‘what, if any, change and/or commencement am I experiencing?’
‘what is Jesus calling me to in the midst of vulnerability?’
‘what and where might be the gift in all of this?’